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I was talking to a friend the other day, a former journalist who has covered lots of political campaigns. We were talking about the current races for Monterey County supervisor, particularly the contest between incumbent Jane Parker and former Salinas mayor Dennis Donohue.

Over the past week or so, the news coverage has been filled with criticism of Donohue’s over-the-top accusations against Parker. Below-the-belt might be a better description. He alleged that she has something against military veterans and had voted against establishing the veterans cemetery at Fort Ord. He falsely asserted that she had somehow delayed the cemetery project, costing Monterey County lots of money and lots of job.

Donohue had “gone negative,” which most candidates do these days. Parker has come out with some ads critical of his source of campaign money. That’s going negative. But Donohue had gone farther, all the way to dirty. Going negative is when you criticize your opponent’s record. Going dirty is when you make stuff up.

Fortunately for the voters, state Sen. Bill Monning jumped into the fray and made it clear that Parker had actually supported the cemetery each step of the way and that, despite the impression Donohue tried to make, the cemetery is actually nearing completion at the former Army base. From the tone of the resulting discussion, it appears that Donohue’s strategy backfired badly. The conversation now begins, “I always liked Dennis, but … .”

During my talk with my friend the other day, I mentioned how how much big money had been injected into the Donohue campaign. Big for a local election. Lots of checks for $20,000, $40,000, even $50,000, mostly from growers and other business interests. And my friend had something interesting to say about that. He said that the big contributions had backed Donohue into a corner of sorts, essentially forcing him go dirty.

I scratched my head. He explained that the big contributions had put Donohue in the position of needing to win, no matter how.

His thinking went like this. When people contribute $100 or $500 to a City Council or supervisorial campaign, they’re doing so because they know the candidate and/or appreciate the candidate’s position on the issues. But when a business contributes $20,000 or more to a campaign, it’s an investment. The money isn’t being spent in support of friendship or good government. It’s an investment and the investor expects a return. The recipient is expected to win and to make sure the investor receives something in return, something worth at least the amount invested.

In one sense, my friend was cutting Donohue a little slack. His internal polling likely told him he was trailing Parker in the District 4 race, and he knew that campaign brochures showing him posting with farmers and cops and such wasn’t going to do it. To win, he’d have to go after Parker, and what was there to say?

Donohue could have said, as he has, that Parker has some strong environmentalist leanings and is receiving lots of support from environmentalists. But he likely realized that such an approach was just as likely to help her as hurt her.

He could have kept stressing in his campaign literature that he has received the endorsements from most of the mayors in the district. But most people in the district don’t know who the mayors are and those who do know might not be really impressed by their views.

So, my friend suggested, Donohue was left with little else but to play the veteran card. It had worked before. Developers of the hugely controversial Monterey Downs horse racing/commercial/residential development at Fort Ord had done everything possible to link the fate of their project to the veterans cemetery project and, in the process, they had tricked some representatives of veterans group into loudly supporting the horse racing venture. A couple of ballot measures related to the horse racing project were decided by the nonsensical argument that a vote against horse racing was a vote against veterans. It was dirty pool but it worked, though the  developers still haven’t come up with enough money or water to make their venture go.

Still, the veterans gambit confused voters once, so the Donohue people apparently figured it was worth another try. What else were they going to do? Win by running a campaign of ideas? Win by pointing to Donohue’s successes as mayor? Win by knocking on doors and answering questions? Clearly that wasn’t working so they made the choice to go negative, to go dirty, to go nasty or go home. As my friend said, with all those investors behind them, excuse me, contributors, what choice did they have?

I’ve always been a cynical sort. I long ago realized that our political system is as much about business as it is about government. But I hadn’t ever looked at things quite the way my friend does. I almost wish we hadn’t had the conversation.

By the way, here’s Parker’s latest mailer, Jane Parker May 14 2016 mailer, which goes after Donohue for his campaign contributions. And expect District 5 supervisorial candidate Mary Adams to go after incumbent Dave Potter‘s voting record in the next week or so. It’s fair game, in both cases, but if anyone spots any truth bending, shout it out. In the same vein, a group of local Adams supporters has just put out a flyer going after Potter’s support for the Monterey Downs project, focusing on a laudatory letter he sent to the mayor of Seaside. And here it is:


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  • Helga Fellay May 14, 2016, 10:06 pm

    I am glad you put that out there, Royal. “But when a business contributes $20,000 or more to a campaign, it’s an investment. The money isn’t being spent in support of friendship or good government. It’s an investment and the investor expects a return. The recipient is expected to win and to make sure the investor receives something in return, something worth at least the amount invested.” I believe that this is absolutely true, and I think this goes to the heart of the matter, and it is the reason why politics has become such a cesspool, and why we have such bad government which works against the people’s interests, instead of for them. This is the very reason why the disastrous Citizens United decision, probably the worst and most damaging decision that has ever come down from the SCOTUS, must be overturned. And if Donahue can be pressured into doing what he is doing by $20,000, $30,000 or $40,000 “donations,” just imagine what this must do to Hillary Clinton whose non-charitable foundation receives “donations” of $Millions from foreign governments, arms dealers, Wall Street, defense contractors, Israel, you name it. This is why it seems so naive when our political pundits tell us that Bernie Sanders is pushing Hillary towards the left, which is totally impossible, even if she wanted to be pushed (and she doesn’t), because she couldn’t tell defense contractors that she is no longer interested in wars, coups and regime changes, even if she wanted to (which she doesn’t) because they just might want their money back. Nor could she tell Netanyahu that the US can’t afford to pay Israel $40 Million or $50 Million to support more wars in Gaza, even if she wanted to (and she doesn’t) because AIPAC made a hefty investment in getting what they had bargained for. In short, unless money and influence buying is taken out of politics, a true democracy is not really possible and we might as well stop putting on the expensive charade of pretending that we have one.

  • Jean May 14, 2016, 11:12 pm


  • Jeanne Turner May 15, 2016, 7:27 am

    I’m in total agreement, Helga. And, Royal, I had always looked upon such contributions as buying favor but the term “investment” had never come to mind.

  • Terri Larson May 15, 2016, 8:05 am

    Very sad state of affairs that politics have always gone this route! But the silver lining for our local politics, and particularly district 4 race, is that there is so little dirt on Jane that Dennis had to go dirty early. Just goes to show what a great leader Jane is and what a great job she has done for all of us. Hang in there Jane and keep fighting the good fight. Your supporters and the voters will prevail. 👍

  • Susan Meister May 15, 2016, 9:09 am

    Royal’s investigative reporting on this issue has been nothing short of extraordinary. No other news outlet had even a whisp of the real story. Thank you, Royal.

    Money in politics is poison. Sorry, Helga, I don’t have an alternative to Hillary and I doubt you have, either. In my view, the only candidate on the ballot is the Supreme Court. The more Hillary is disparaged, the less likely the most important factor in this election is overlooked. I happen to think she will make a very good president despite her many shortcomings. But my eye is on protecting the next generation from a club of Scalia clones.

    • Helga Fellay May 15, 2016, 4:07 pm

      Susan, what makes you think that Clinton would protect the next generation from a club of Scalia clones? She no doubt favors the Citizens United decision because she is its main beneficiary, and she would make sure not to nominate anyone who just might overturn that decision. That would involve Scalia clones who will make pro-Wall Street, pro-deregulation, pro disastrous “trade agreement” and pro-military-industrial complex decisions in essence not so different from decisions Scalia would make if he weren’t dead. If you believe that she will make “a very good president,” that can mean only one thing: that you are not as knowledgeable about her documented record as we need to be. The information is readily available if you look for it online, although certainly not from any of the MSM sources. If you approve of what Bush and Cheney did for this country and the rest of the world, by all means vote for her. If not, you might want to think again. You are mistaken if you think I have no alternative to Hillary. If she is the nominee, I will vote for Jill Stein. Millions of Sanders supporters will do the same, turning the Green Party into a viable political party that even our corrupt system will no longer be able to keep out of the political process. The result will be that at least 4 years from now, we will have a real choice when we go to the polls, which we do not have now – a choice between a progressive pro-peace people’s party on the one hand, and the two almost identical neocon/neoliberal war parties D and R. At that point, we may be able to claim that we function like a democracy, which we really aren’t right now.

  • Jeanne Turner May 15, 2016, 10:06 am

    It’s going to be most unfortunate if Hillary is our only option because she is so deeply enmeshed in
    the political machine that any policies Bernie would suggest would just fall on deaf ears. With the current legislature, nothing good is going to happen if either Hillary or Bernie gets elected. It will take voters a few more cycles to figure that out. As Dan would say, “It hasn’t gotten bad enough yet.”

    • Helga Fellay May 15, 2016, 4:23 pm

      I usually agree with Dan 99% of the time, but he may be mistaken when he believes it hasn’t gotten bad enough yet. The number of Americans who are still enjoying a comfortable middle class standard of living is shrinking at a rapid rate. Already, many of the poor have become the homeless, and increasing number of the middle class have become the poor. Many of the poor who are trying to avoid homelessness are working two or three part-time minimum wage jobs, requiring them to work up to 7 days a week, up to 16 or 18 hours per day, just to pay outrageous rents and feed their children. This is unsustainable and the price they, their families, their communities and society at large are paying and will continue to pay is not yet fully realized. I am retired but still work little jobs on occasion through a temp agency called Manpower, and I, as well as my son, have personally met and know many of these people who have no choice but to exist (you can’t really call it live) that way. It’s impossible to maintain your physical or mental health, or raise healthy children, on 3 to 5 hours of sleep per night. It may not take that many cycles for voters to figure this out, because if this isn’t bad enough yet, I don’t know what is.

  • Matthew Sundt May 15, 2016, 10:22 am

    Well done Royal and Helga! I concur. The tens of thousands donated to the Donohue campaign from ag interest…uhm…the same guys that despoil our groundwater, surface water, poison the air with chemical spray, and dump their factory floor detritus onto the public right-of-way? Those guys?

  • GIN May 15, 2016, 10:37 am

    As I type this . . .
    7 comments have been posted
    6 comments were by females.
    1 comment by a male.
    Is this a MALE versus FEMALE ection?
    It appears the females are for Jane.
    Are the males all for Dennis?

    • Margaret Davis May 15, 2016, 10:29 pm

      No. Your sample is too small and your hypothesis does not follow.

  • Janet Collins May 15, 2016, 1:27 pm

    Royal, I just sent a small donation..So wish it could be more…Want you to know how much I appreciate your investigative reporting. The Partisan is the ONLY one that does this for us.. the other news media, nada, zilch, nunca, nothing, just the pure pap that is handed to them by Cal Am and the County PR. I think the term Colbert uses is truthyness…And a good dose of that is what is being handed to Dennis right now and it hurts…All Jane has to do is stick to her record…
    But, I would like to say that one of the reasons you can say what you want to say, “freedom of the press” if you will, is because YOU are not as indebted to the County or Cal Am in terms of advertising dollars as the Herald and the Weekly are…I know for a fact when they want something quashed, they simply call the editor and tell him or her, as the case may be, and say, “Don’t print it..” Extortion…They are only required legally to print in one newspaper, so that’s an awful big threat they have…And it may even carry over to an endorsement for that matter…I wouldn’t put it past them…Sad day for investigative reporting…Verginia Hennesy was one sharp newspaper reporter…Same for Livernois and Parsons…All gone now…Nuts….

    • Richard Kreitman May 15, 2016, 4:54 pm

      Which is why my favorite political quote is Jesse Unruh’s classic about lobbyists:
      “If you can’t eat their food, drink their booze, screw their women, take their money and then vote against them you’ve got no business being up here.”
      Would that it were true.

  • Jeanne Turner May 15, 2016, 5:57 pm

    Gin, Dan is financially supporting Jane and Mary. He has also walked many hours for Mary, who is our 5th district candidate. Wish we could vote in both the 4th and 5th.

  • bill hood May 16, 2016, 6:50 pm

    This is an indirect comment on Donohue and his supporters. Read SquidFry regarding the FORA vote on a consultant and how it went down. Kind of disgusting. But is clear evidence of that side of politics you are so clearly describing.

  • bill leone May 16, 2016, 11:04 pm

    GIN: FYI, I support Mary Adams, & Jane Parker, & have the opinion that Dennis the Menace & Mr. P
    are obviously unfit for public office, not because they are Males, but because they are deceitful Jerks….as previous Partisan articles & comments (by males & females) have pointed out.

    Moreover, your question is vulnerable to Feminist Critique.

    (Also, I think you Almost made a Freudian Slip with: “Is this a MALE versus FEMALE ection?”

    bill leone (Progressive Candidate for Monterey County Democratic Central Committee)

  • Janet Collins May 19, 2016, 3:59 pm

    Hot off the presses, folks…And speaking of Potter, take a look at the Weekly Squid Fry 5/19/2016..Pendergast really exposed old Potter for what he is…Just read it…It says it all…

  • Janet Collins May 19, 2016, 4:02 pm

    Mary Adams needs to jump all over this…No more nice girl…Expose him for what he is…